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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Kassel

Early 2000s pop punk meets late 2010s future bass in "Good Things Fall Apart"

In hindsight, these styles are perfect for each other — unlike the former relationship the song describes. Bravo, ILLENIUM and Jon Bellion.

Consider this the end to the short, three-day romance arc my Senior Year Soundtrack took, and a downer of an ending at that.

The arc began two days ago with the Temper Trap's "Sweet Disposition" and the elation of a potential young love blossoming. With "How Deep Is Your Love" by the Bee Gees, the attraction became deeper on the narrator's end, while they had questions about the other's level of commitment. With the way I've crafted the arc's conclusion through San Francisco-raised ILLENIUM's "Good Things Fall Apart," featuring Jon Bellion, it's clear that something didn't end up working out between the parties for one reason or another. It seemed good while it lasted, but "while it lasted" in itself indicates it's over. Meanwhile, the narrator is only left questioning themselves as they try to figure out just what went wrong.

"Good Things Fall Apart" jumped out at me the first time I heard it because of its unique sound that merges contemporary future bass with subject matter and guitars that give it an early 2000s alt rock and pop punk flavor. Acoustic guitars drive the verse, while an electric rhythm guitar backs the lead synth in the chorus, among others. It's a sonic collision I might have seen coming had I known of ILLENIUM's foreshadowing of the collaboration's release with a "Sadboi anthem incoming" quote-tweet of Jon Bellion after the singer remarked how he missed those types of songs from pop punk acts like Yellowcard and Dashboard Confessional.

Bellion certainly taps into that characteristic sadness à la Ryan Key and Chris Carrabba with the aforementioned questioning that begins his lyrics in the first verse: "Did I say something wrong? Did you hear what I was thinking?" It's sad enough that he has to ask those questions, but it's even sadder if you hear his singing as I do — as a one-sided conversation, with nobody there to answer them. He sings as if his former partner is right there, but with no response coming his way, I get the feeling that he's asking the questions to an empty room, or maybe figuring out whether to send them off as texts that will also likely go unanswered. The short pre-chorus ("Overthinking's got me drinking / Messing with my head") solidifies this internal introspectiveness heading into the explosively angsty chorus.

I think what makes the chorus work so well is the way ILLENIUM layers and mixes the various elements. The kick and snare drums hit like jabs and hooks respectively, and they work in conjunction with the bass to provide a solid low end. On the higher side, the lead synth doesn't have to compete with another sound at its peak, and the aforementioned rhythm guitar strongly fills out the midrange to keep the pop punk influence not only apparent, but a driving force that pushes the rest of the instrumental forward. Bellion's lyrics over it all only further the early 2000s qualities. "Tell me what you hate about me / Whatever it is, I'm sorry" is a couplet that rivals any chorus opener by blink-182, New Found Glory, and the like, but it only works so well because it does so in conjunction with the various facets of the instrumental.

The subsequent release of the chorus' final lines — "I'm coming to terms with a broken heart / I guess that sometimes good things fall apart" — over just two acoustic guitar chords is more heartbreaking in the scope of the song's narrative than any other moment. It's a sudden switch to tenderness after the raw outburst that came before it, and it ends up somewhat resolving the internal conflict present throughout the lyrics. Maybe, even with all the questions Bellion asks himself, there isn't one specific reason or even one party to the former relationship that is to blame above the others. That might end up being a nice reminder for listeners to "Good Things Fall Apart," especially those who remembered the angsty pop punk anthems that inspired it. At the end of the day, the blame game and over-analyzing just leaves more pain than with which it began, and constantly looking back can rob one of the opportunities of the present.


Postscript — three remixes and a mashup: "Good Things Fall Apart" has one of the most solid remix packs of any release in a long time, and the re-workings I'm highlighting here each have a distinctive style to them. Firstly, 3LAU (pronounced like his last name "Blau") gave the track a retro-wave remix, but still within the future bass realm. I remember hearing this remix on the radio months before its release.

Secondly, legendary electronic producer Tiësto put a rave-ready house spin on ILLENIUM and Bellion's original.

Thirdly, Travis Barker of the aforementioned blink-182 fame gave the song the retouching of which I'd dreamt, but never expected to actually get. The result is a pop punk sound that seemed to foretell the sound's resurgence in the coming months and years.

Finally, ILLENIUM himself made a mashup of "Good Things Fall Apart" with "Sad Songs," his collaboration with producer Said the Sky and singer Annika Wells that appeared alongside the former track on his album ASCEND. I may be blown away by this re-working more than Barker's... listen and see if you feel the same way.


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